Everything is either in black or white for him. The grey scale does not exist. Perhaps it is this attitude towards perfection and clarity that has led him to where he is today. Hailing from the small Italian hamlet of Torino, Igor Macchia is a Michelin starred chef who tours around the world showcasing his culinary mastery.
“Travel helps in influencing the food that I make because I get new ideas, methods and new ingredients,” says Chef Macchia. Travel also helps one in understanding one’s roots, he says. “ If you are only in Italy, you tend to lose your identity as it is the same things you see all around you all the time. But when you go out, you realise the difference you are able to bring about from the place you come from.”
His restaurant in Torino, La Credenza, is 25 years old and is Michelin starred sine 2006. Chef Macchia says that the restaurant does not really serve traditional food but dishes out Italian cuisine with a modern twist. Being a chef who travels worldwide, he likes to use different ingredients and techniques, but makes sure that the root of everything remains Italian. “In order to be able to make fancy stuff, you need to know your traditional ways, only then you can recreate new flavours and methods. So for me it is very important to know traditional Italian food.”
Chef Macchia says that there is a strong tradition of cooking in Italy. “Mothers and grandmothers are always great cooks and it was normal for a child to be involved in the kitchen. From there, as one grows up, either you continue or you don’t. I was happy to continue. I like the feeling of cooking for somebody and when somebody tells me that my food is very nice,” explains the chef about his choice of vocation.
A stickler for detail and precision, Chef Macchia defines perfection in food as doing the best one can. “Secondly, don’t fool people. You cant make people pay saying it is fine dining or expensive food and give them below quality food. Thirdly, you need to have a lot of control and stick to the rules. For example, if cooking time is six minutes, it has to be so. It can’t be five and a half or seven minutes,” says the chef who earned his Michelin star at the age of 28. “In my restaurant, when we try a new recipe, it is a result of several attempts of trial. So everyone should follow the final method that is a result of the hard work of those who created it.”
The chef stresses upon respect for the diners. “The kitchen is a serious place that should be respected. So for me, you need to follow the rules and be professional, as guests anyway pay a lot of money to try your food so you need to give back accordingly.”
Chef Macchaia does not believe in planning. He does not deliberate upon the dishes that he makes or tries, thinking he needs to go back to Italy and recreate them or incorporate them in his Italian dishes. He would rather assimilate them as and when he feels like whenever the memories of the dish arise.
Is he able to get authentic ingredients in the places he visits? “Having travelled so much, I already know what I can get and what I won’t in the place that I visit. So I try to use the ingredients that I’m sure I will get there, and skip the recipes that will require things that are not available.”
So does the fine dining chef weave his culinary magic at home as well? “I don’t cook anything at home because I’m at home about six times in a year. Im in Italy for only a short while, and that would be for work at my restaurant. Everybody thinks that when I cook at home, it would be an elaborate fare, but I actually make something simple like a salad or pasta, because I am already cooking the whole week at work.” The chef says his comfort food is “plain pasta with butter and parmesan cheese. Also boiled rice with olive oil and parmesan cheese and salads”. As an ambassador of Italian food, Chef Macchia says that the philosophy behind Italian cuisine is the freshness, taste of the ingredients and simplicity.